Author Archives: Michael Coorlim

About Michael Coorlim

Michael Coorlim is a teller of strange stories for stranger people. He collects them, the oddballs. The mystics and fire-spinners, the sages and tricksters. He curates their tales, combines their elements and lets them rattle around inside his rock-tumbler skull until they gleam, then spills them loose onto the page for like-minded readers to enjoy.

Trick Shot: A Shooting Gallery Remake

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that one of my hobbies is game design. Now, I’m an author, a podcast producer, and I publish RPGs, so the line between “job” and “hobby” is thin, but perhaps best addressed with the question: Does it make me any money?

Game Development does not. We’re talking video games here, not the tabletop RPG stuff that I sell.

Trick Shot

How to Play:

Click on the game screen above to make sure it has focus, otherwise you won’t be able to play.

Rubber duckies will scroll from top to bottom. You have 5 shots to hit each one, firing by pressing the space bar. The goal is to shoot as many as you can in two minutes. After each hit, your rifle will be placed in a random spot with a random orientation, so the trick is to figure out the timing before using up all five of your bullets.

Why did I make this?

Trick Shot is a very simple game made for a very simple reason. Two reasons, really.

  1. Actually finish a project
  2. Figure out some stuff in gamemaker

So I took a day and I made this from scratch based on the old 1976 Fairchild Channel F game Shooting Gallery. Making the duck pixel art was probably the most time consuming. It’s not perfect; sometimes the gun will spawn facing slightly to the left making hitting the targets impossible. If I had a mind to, I’d add more resolution options and the potential of touchscreen/mouse support.

But why bother? It’s a simple little game that isn’t really intended for public consumption. Just a learning tool. That said, I’ll be releasing a stand alone executable slightly improved version for my patrons on Patreon. Not much of an incentive, I know.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

“Best Novelist” nomination

I’ve been nominated for the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago” Best Novelist award. I have no idea what twist of fate has led to my name alongside Mary Robinette Kowal, Kathleen Rooney, and Stacey Ballis, but I full intend to take advantage of this glitch in the matrix before it corrects itself.

My latest novel, Network Protocol, has also been nominated for “Best New Novel.” What?

So g’wan. If you’re a fan of what I write, vote for me. It’d be a huge help, even if I don’t win.

To Vote:

Go to the Ballot, click on my name. It might have you sign up or just give your email address. Oh, and you’ll have to disable adblock to get it to work. I appreciate your sacrifice. You can also vote for Network Protocol.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Network Protocol, second in the cyberpunk thriller series Shadow Decade, has been released

Network Protocol, the 2nd book in the cyberpunk thriller series Shadow Decade, has just been released.

The family you choose can get you killed

Spring has come to Chicago, and Erica has adapted well enough to the future to settle into a peaceful routine. She fills out applications, goes on job interviews, avoids people, and tries to adjust by watching the decade of television that she’s missed. The less she leaves her apartment, the less confusing 2026 seems, and Kate — the ruthlessly competent inner voice that’s kept her safe — has been silent since the mastermind behind the attempts on her life was arrested.

Still, social isolation isn’t all its chalked up to be. Erica’s lack of a support network becomes increasingly problematic as the gang that runs her Block gets swept up into a citywide gang-war, and narrowed eyes increasingly see her as an outsider in their midst. Can she open up enough to find acceptance?

For the first week of release, until the end of April 2017, both Network Protocol and the first book in the series, Cold Reboot, are available in ebook format for $0.99 cents. That’s a $2 investment, cool, right?

Both books are also available as paperbacks for around $15 through Amazon. I’ll be shipping it out to all of my $10+ patrons around the first of May, so if you want to get it a little cheaper consider signing up for my Patreon. I only ship out the paperbacks and hardcovers the one time, so if you want a copy that way, now’s the time to sign up to avoid missing out.

  • $15.99 paperback from Amazon

Speaking of hardcovers, those will be available in late May, early June. If you want one, I’d suggest maybe picking up the ebook now while it’s a dollar, and then signing up for to my mailing list to get notification when that’s available. Or, if you support my Patreon at the $25 level, you get the hardcover when it goes out. As an added bonus, if you subscribe to the Patreon at any level, you get a free download link for my ebooks. All of them. All of the released books. And bonus episodes of the Working Class Creatives podcast. And a bunch of other stuff.

If you do pick up a copy, I’d love to hear what you think of it. Write a review. Post it to your blog or Amazon, put a link in the comments below. It really helps out.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

On YouTube: A Vlog

So, that interview podcast I launched? Yeah, well, thing is, I’m not the greatest extemporaneous speaker. It’s not really my job. I’m a writer, I give words so other people can say them.

So I started this vlog to help be get better at the talky-talk. Check it:

Eh? Eh? Eh. Well, it’s a start. Subscribe to it if you want to see where it goes. Comment and let me know if you have any advice.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

On Marvel and Diversity: Track more than direct sales, idiots

Marvel Comics has blamed its declining sales on their lackluster attempts to shoehorn in “diversity” simply by having comics feature female and POC characters. Marvel’s sales have been in a steady decline since the late 1970s, and this sinking spiral is due to a neverending cascade of poor business decisions.

Direct Market

Marvel and DC Comics track their sales almost exclusively through direct market pre-sales. Chances are you didn’t know that, and may not be entirely sure what that means, because it’s some hardcore nerd talk. Basically it means that sales only count through the distributors to comic book stores.

Specifically, when the owners pre-order comics several months before the books are released. It doesn’t matter how many copies the store actually sells; the numbers are crunched back when orders for the new issue are first taken.

Yes. That means that any hype that springs up after the first issue of a book pretty much doesn’t count. If the issues fly off the stack like mad? Doesn’t count. If you wait and buy the trade paperback? Doesn’t count. Buy a digital copy online? Doesn’t count. Fan appreciation? Doesn’t count.

Unless you asked your comic book guy to pre-order you a copy as soon as the book’s listing shows up in the distributor catalog, your purchase doesn’t count. Oh, sure, if a title picks up steam and sells out fast our shop owner might order more copies for the newest issues, but for a monthly book that’s looking at at least the third issue, and books often take a few issues to pick up steam. Especially if Marvel isn’t pushing them very hard, and the title relies entirely on fan review and word of mouth.

Which is usually the case.

So Diverse Book X is announced and listed in the catalog. The only people who pay attention are the hardcore comic fans, who, as a group, may not care about attempts to reach out to a broader audience or be actively hostile to it. They may not seem interested, which leads the shop owner to order low.

Comic Rack

A few months later, the book shows up in the shop. Maybe people love it. Maybe they eat it up. Maybe its a slower burn, but by the time shop owners realize and up their orders, Marvel is already disappointed in sales, so they’ve cut back their expectations.

The book, regardless of popularity, is canceled based on sales data from months ago.

The Fans

So sales decline because the only metric that reaches Marvel (and, incidentally, DC) are how comic book stores think that their fans will feel about their comics. And the fans themselves are an increasingly shrinking niche audience.

Young Romance ComicBack in the 1970s Superhero Comics were only one of many genres. There were war comics, and crime comics, and horror comics, and westerns, and mysteries, and romance. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon started Young Romance, a comic that persisted for 208 issues with really excellent sales. Comics were sold in gas stations and bookstores and newsstands and basically everywhere, so were easily accessible to the general public.

Then everything went to hell. There was a late 70s crash. The Big 2 shuttered a lot of their books. Marvel basically only survived the 70s on the strength of the Star Wars license.

The 80s weren’t much better, and the start of a series of poor business decisions predicated on short term benefit. The comics that sprang up were almost exclusively superhero-focused, creating the image of comic fans as interested in only a narrow slice of subject manner. Into the 90s both major companies engaged in gimmick after gimmick to profit from the speculator bubble of the era, establishing habits that would make it increasingly difficult for new fans to approach the media. Prices rose to increase profit margins even as the economy tanked.

Now, in 2017, Marvel’s event-heavy schedule and DCs incessant reboots have created an environment where new fans find it hard to invest in 28-page books that cost $3-4 a pop. Marvel and DCs’ target market is that shrinking population of collectors and die-hards who will keep buying even if they hate what’s being produced. Everyone else has cheaper entertainment options that don’t go out of their way to insult and exploit the readership.

And they blame “Diversity.”

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Working Class Creatives: A Podcast

Not too terribly long ago my Patreon reached its first milestone of $50 per month. I do this thing where when we reach some, I offer my patrons some sort of group reward. The $50 reward was that I’d refine my textual updates into a regular podcast where I’d talk about my process.

Well, like I usually do, I went overboard. It’s not my fault, really; I just sort of floated the idea of maybe having a guest host or doing an interview of one of my fellow writers or artists and was swamped with responses.

So instead, my simple idea of a development log turned into a bi-weekly interview podcast.

Working Class Creatives

Every other week I’ll be talking to another creative professional about their path, their secrets, and their missteps. On the off-weeks I’ll record special Patreon patron-only bonus episodes that might be closer to my original conception of a dev log, or they might be off-topic non-interview discussions with other creatives I know.

We’ll see how it all sorts out, aye?

Today’s interview is with audiodrama producer and writer Paul Sating. Go on over to Working Class Creatives and give it a listen.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Doctor Who for a Dollar through Humble Bundle

Humble Bundle is a digital storefront that regularly offers collections of electronic products at a deep discount. You get one set of goodies for as little as a single dollar, a second set if you beat the current average donation, and a third set if you pay the flat ceiling, which is usually around fifteen dollars. A portion of your payment goes to the publishers, some goes to Humble Bundle itself to offset costs, and the rest goes to charity. You can set who gets how much when you check out.

It’s great. I buy from them frequently, usually video games – they give out Steam codes, so it’s pretty convenient, and I end up trying out a lot of games I wouldn’t have bothered picking up, for as little as a dollar.

Their latest offering is a collection of Doctor Who audio products from Big Finish.

  • $1 gets you the first six episodes in the Destiny of the Doctor audiobook series.
  • Beating the average (currently at $6.64) gets you six full-cast 8th Doctor audiodrama, and a seventh Destiny of the Doctor audiobook.
  • Paying the full $15 gets you all of the above, plus three full-cast Torchwood audiodrama, something called Doctor Who: The Churchill Years, and the last four Destiny of the Doctor audiobooks.

I usually only go for the single-dollar or “beat the average” options, but this time opted for the full package. What can I say? I’m a fan, of both Doctor Who and audiodrama.

I haven’t had the time to crack into all of it yet, but here are my first impressions.

Destiny of the Doctor: Mildly disappointed to discover that these were audiobooks rather than audiodrama at first, but the narrators are very good at what they’re doing, and the dialog captures the essence of the classic Doctors very well. I’m into it.

8th Doctor Adventures: I was a big fan of Paul McGann’s Doctor. Unfortunately, audio drama like this is really the only way it’s ever been presented. That said, I’m looking forward to listening to these – and interesting to see what kind of production values Big Finish works with.

Torchwood: I really enjoyed Torchwood, and was sorry to see it go. Looking forward to this, and more John Barrowman.

So, yeah, a lot of value for $15. Check it out yourself. Let me know what you think, or if you can recommend any other Big Finish products as essential.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Dev Log Friday: Prototyping

Progress on Resource Allocation Error continues. I’m at the point where I can do some prototyping to try and work out some of the interior system stuff, so I’ve started working something together in Twine.

Why Twine? Because it’s fast, simple, and lays out process in a way that’s easy to grasp and therefore will be easy to transfer. It’s not a perfect solution, because the syntax is a lot closer to hypertext markup and java than what I’ll eventually be working in, but I’ve been meaning to write more interactive fiction anyway and learning a new language isn’t going to hurt.

I am struggling against the scripting language a bit, but it’s nothing to serious yet. The main game loop is easy to represent, and this may turn out to be an advantage when it comes to the narrative portions of the simulation.

If I end up with something that’s marginally playable I may release it… but if it needs too much polish, I’ll just move into core development.

We’ll see.

Accomplishments:

  • Basic timekeeping (minute, hour, day, month, year advancement). Got to learn how to use widgets as subroutines.
  • Sleeping and napping are incorporated. You ask me, that’s a good 60% of life right there.

To Do:

  • Figure out what to do in terms of pictures, if any. This is just a prototype, but it’d be nice to have some visuals.
  • Maybe there’s a better way for pre-game initialization.
  • Incorporate multiple characters, skills, etc.
  • Basically everything.
Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Art and Intent in 2017

When you’re making something… whether it be a sandwich, a novel, a painting, or a relationship… you can either do so mindfully or mindlessly. With intent, or aimlessly. Let’s narrow our focus here, from ‘anything’ to ‘art’ to ‘writing.’

I’m not talking about pantsing versus plotting here. I’m talking about being aware of the consequences of your actions and the impact your creative choices have on what you end up with. The first artistic choice we can make is whether to approach our work with awareness or self-absorption.

It can be hard, as a writer, to maintain a state of mindfulness, in an environment where readers and critics will analyze our output for factors we might not be intending to include. Inclusiveness. Diversity. Cultural appropriation. Objectification.

We might say to ourselves, “Fuck, I just want to write about zombies or spaceships or elves and dragons or whatever.” We might want to decry the influence of political correctness, and envision ourselves as taking some sort of stand when we refuse to capitulate to what those people want our precious art to be.

But that’s what we’re doing. Taking a stand. Making a statement of values. Making a political choice, even if that choice is denial of political intent.

Wanna know a secret?

Nobody gives a fuck about your actual intent

Sorry.

There’s this old chestnut that I can barely remember about Herman Melville (or some other author) giving some smart alec response to what those high-falutin’ English teachers read into his work, probably culminating with everybody standing up and clapping.

It doesn’t matter if Herman wanted the whale to be a whale or ambition or the devil or influenza. Once you finish something and put it out there, it’s not yours anymore. Art does not exist in absence of the observing mind to render it so. Words on a screen are just pixels, a book is just dead trees and ink.

A story is only a story when someone reads the fucker and filters it through their lifetime of experience. Art isn’t writing a book or painting a picture or singing a song. Art isn’t a noun. Art is a verb, the action of deriving meaning from synthesis. You, as a writer or artist or poet or dancer, provide a catalyst. The audience provides meaning. A million different meanings. And that’s the environment we publish into.

Our work persists, so we’re publishing into the unknown future of critical analysis, too. We cannot control how our work is received, but we can control how mindful we are when we create it. The context in which it was created.

So look around. See what people care about. What your audience’s mindset is. That’s your context. And how you respond to that context, that’s your expression of intent.  We don’t live in a vacuum and we cannot claim ignorance of the attitudes and values of our audience.

Well. We can. That’s called being a shit writer with no sense of the market. Write your grand epic about things only you care about with a willful ignorance of how it’ll be received. That’s a choice, too. You have no excuse not to make it with an understanding of what you’re doing, except for sloppiness.
Political stances are valid. Sloppiness is the mark of a shit writer.Don’t be a shit writer.The world is too connected to make a legitimate claim to be writing in a vacuum. You know what people think. You know how they feel. You know how your works will be taken, and if you choose to write in a way that leaves people feeling oppressed or unimportant or like you’re so full of your own sense of self-importance that it pours out of every orifice like a waterfall of privilege, then that’s something you’ve chosen. That’s your brand. That’s your image.Don’t say you weren’t warned. You knew what you were doing. You have no deniability. You own your choices, they own you, no matter how lazy you’re feeling about it.You write, you release, you relinquish all control over interpretation and intent. That’s it.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.